Saturday, May 21, 2011


It is time to say goodbye... Well not really: Nouriel Roubini's new Economonitor site is up:

So are the new blog sites, including that of your friendly neighborhood economist:

All my previous Roubini columns have been transferred there, and I set mobile blogging on my Bberry as well with Wordpress for Bberry....

In short, I am all set to go. Therefore, starting today, this blog will no longer be active, as I will be blogging over at my new blog.

Why did I decide to do that? Two reasons, mainly: First, I wanted to open myself up to new readers by joining forces with Roubini's Economonitor to satisfy my inflated ego. Second, I was sick of Blogger getting banned in Turkey from time to time. While I could easily work around the ban, thanks to my computer-whiz brother, my readers couldn't, so basta with that! So I was thinking of switching to Wordpress anway, so Wordpress + Roubini seemed like a good deal:)

Anyway, thanks a lot for following this blog, and I'll be glad if you follow me at Economonitor as well. The upside is that if you get tired of my mumbo jambo ramblings, more serious columnists, including Nouriel himself, i.e. those who don't squeeze football (soccer for you Yanks) to every third or fourth column and those without a huge eagle tattoo on their back, are only a click way...

If you were subscribed to this blog through email or RSS and can not do that in the new blog, or if there are other inconveniences, please let me know via a comment here or just emaling me @ I am very new to Wordpress, but Roubini has IT guys who are quite proficient, judging by design of the Economonitor site in general and more specifically, my header:), so I will forward any requests to them...

It has been a good run here at Blogger for almost 3 years. See you over at Economonitor!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The end of an era or two

I learned this week that Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review's South Weekly, to which your friendly neighborhood economist was a regular contributor, is no more:( Monday's issue was the last. I learned this when I called in the editor on Wednesday to keep my promise of a column for next week...

Anyway, I am listing below, along with hyperlinks, all my South Weekly editorials:

But there is another end of an era, which is even more important, at least for me: Roubini's new Economonitor site, which will include outside bloggers, including your friendly neighborhood economist, is opening doors today. So I will not be blogging to this blog anymore. I am not erasing it; in fact, all my posts until now will stay, but I will be blogging at Roubini's from now on.

I will be sharing with you my new address later today or tomorrow...

Hadi hayirlisi:)....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Roubini Post: Jordanian Lessons for a Turkish Economist

This post already appeared in Hurriyet Daily News this week; Roubini Global Economics Emerging Markets EconoMonitor is just republishing it, but I just wanted to cross-link for the readers who might have missed it the first time around...

This column is the result of my two-week consulting gig in Jordan and the second of two columns on the country. The first column, just my impressions on Jordan, is a fun and easy read and would make a nice supplement to this one.

I will have an extensive addendum in the next few days, where I will address reader critiques that I should have mentioned corruption as well as add in a few general observations on Jordan...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I really seem to have found my niche... the popularity department that is: Unless I write a controversial column, I seem to have settled down in the lower parts of Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review's top-10 rankings:
I got quite  a few comments with this one as well....
...although most comments weren't all that positive:) In fact, they were positive- in the sense that I learned that I have readers who care enough to tell me that they are disappointed with the column. And I appreciate all feedback, so I was happy at the end of the day:) As for the critiques, as I mentioned earlier, I will be addressing them in an extensive addendum in the next few days.

Pardon my appreance...

.... while I am in construction, of the blog that is...

I just came back from a two-week consulting gig in Jordan and will be posting several posts in the next few days...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekly Hurriyet Column: Jordanian lessons for a Turkish economist

Below is my Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review column for this week, which you can also read at the Daily News website.

I just returned from Jordan after a two-week consulting gig. Among other goodies, like lots of hummus and felafel, and of course Petra (I am still mesmerized, it definitely lives up to its hype), I ended up with two columns, one on my impressions on Jordan, the other on an informal comparison on the Turkish & Jordanian economies.This is the second column. If you'll look at the comments under the column, you'll see that I got quite a few arrows from my readers for failing to mention corruption in Jordan. I'll address those issues, as well as my general impressions on Jordan, in an extensive addendum, but first on to the column:

Two weeks in Jordan is enough to make you throw two decades of Economics down the drain. At least, part of it.

We teach in economics classes that a fixed exchange rate is not a good idea. You make yourself open to speculative attacks and lose monetary policy autonomy. It is argued that corner solutions, such as a fully flexible exchange rate or leaving one’s currency altogether, by adopting a common currency or another country’s, are preferable to in-between solutions like a fixed exchange rate.

However, being pegged to the dollar seems to have been working rather well for Jordan. Government officials and the IMF agree that not only has the peg played a vital role in anchoring inflation expectations, it has also helped maintain financial stability in a volatile region. As for monetary autonomy, Samar Maziad of the IMF finds that there is some room for flexibility in operating monetary policy in the short-run.

But some things never change. My time in Jordan has also reminded me that there is no secret formula for development. Each country has its own specific circumstances that it needs to take into account. Otherwise, you would be hard-pressed to explain why Jordan doesn’t fly and touch the sky despite an open economy, an educated workforce and success in attracting foreign direct investment.

Of course, Jordan has many constraints on growth as well, such as its small size and lack of water. But Singapore and Dubai have been able to overcome arguably tougher challenges. I must admit that size does matter, especially when you try to understand Turkish industry’s edge over Jordan’s, or make a comparison of the two stock exchanges.

The latter story is quite interesting. As Nader Azar, Deputy CEO of the Amman Stock Exchange, noted, when the Istanbul Stock Exchange opened 25 years ago, Turks would come to the ASE to learn. Now, the ASE sends people to the ISE for training, where average daily trading volume was 136 times higher in April, despite both exchanges having more or less the same number of listed companies. No wonder you see wild price swings at the ASE.

Another lesson is that just as you can’t force banks to lend less, you also can’t oblige them to lend more, either. Jordan is one step ahead of Turkey in that regard, as it is, to my knowledge, only depending on market mechanisms rather than Ali Babacan-like outright threats. While reducing required reserves in exchange for loans to small and medium-sized enterprises has not been deemed sufficient by bankers, it is nevertheless a useful first step.

You also appreciate the wisdom of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld. As Kramer explains, “when there is no work, people are restless. Who do you think they come after? El Presidente!” While this is an oversimplification of events in the region, it also explains quite well the recent extra budgetary measures in Jordan, which have not only widened the deficit, but also have pushed debt dangerously close to the 60 percent legal ceiling.

Finally, seeing Jordan so serious about the reform agenda makes me wonder why Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, with the extra security of robust macroeconomic fundamentals under its belt, has shied away from structural reforms. With their new investment law, the Jordanians are actively targeting the variables that factor into the World Bank’s Doing Business and World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness rankings. Many other countries are engaged in this rat race as well, so I am worried that Turkey is falling behind.

There is one more thing that Turkey lacks in comparison to Jordan: Decent falafel. You haven’t had falafel until you have had it at Hashem in downtown Amman. And now I need to go and get some before my flight back.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another decent performance

I again made it to the top 10 with my impressions from Jordan:
Speaking of the column: If you thought I have an inflated ego (I know of at least one person who does), you are finally right: I do have an inflated ego after two week in Jordan: Being treated like the citizen of a regional superpower just felt great: Everyone was praising Turkish companies & products and of course the Turkish PM. Speaking of the PM, I am convinced that having him move to Jordan and become the PM there would be a definite Pareto improvement: Most Jordanians would love to have him, as I have heard some say that they would prefer him even to their beloved King. I and people who think like would love to see him go away. Of course, there is the problem of his supporters, but I believe they can be convinced to let him go under the pretext that he will help regional stability and even world peace...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekly Hurriyet Column: Impressions from Jordan

Below is my Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review column for this week (it is actually last, as I am posting this exactly a week late, but I am sticking to its original date for archiving purposes), which you can also read at the Daily News website.

I just came returned from Jordan after a two-week consulting gig. Among other goodies, like lots of hummus and felafel, and of course Petra, I ended up with two columns, one on my impressions on Jordan, the other on an informal comparison on the Turkish & Jordanian economies. So without further chit-chat, here is the first column:

I was rather surprised to see a deserted city when I landed in Amman on Tuesday night for a two-week consulting gig on the Jordanian economy, banking sector and capital markets.

My curiosity was satisfied soon enough: I found my hotel’s bar packed, with people glued to the screen watching the Barcelona-Real Madrid game. I learned from an analyst I was meeting with the next day that both teams are very popular in Jordan, and that as many as 1 million people (from a population of 6.5 million) may have watched the game on Tuesday.

The abundance of players with El Clasico experience on its squad may explain Beşiktaş’s popularity in Jordan over its two Istanbul rivals, who have their own version of El Clasico. But two Turks are more popular in the JK than any member of my beloved team.

Everyone here knows the actor Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, although he is often mentioned as the “blond guy,” as his name is a challenge for Jordanians. The Turkish soap operas, mosalsas as they are called here, that made him famous are a big hit in Jordan as in many other countries in the region, and I was told that Jordanians watched the closing episode of Aşk-ı Memnu with teary eyes Wednesday night.

But even Tatlıtuğ’s popularity is dwarfed by that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The first thing taxi drivers do when they learn I am Turkish is to mention his name with a big smile. I receive a much more sincere “Wa alaykum salam” to my “As-Salamu Alaykum’s” (I have used the phrase more in the past week than the rest of my life) when it is known beforehand that I am Turkish.

It seems the “one minute” and “flotilla” incidents have won the hearts of Jordanians as in the rest of the Arab world. Although I had dismissed both as cheap politics at the time, I have to admit I do like the free respect they have brought me here. Yes, I am such a spineless opportunist!

Joking aside, seeing the teary-eyed refugees looking at the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee from the lookout point at the Decapolis city Gadara/Umm Qais is worth reading a dozen books on the Palestinian problem. But I am still not convinced that Erdoğan’s outbursts have brought us closer to a solution at all.

However, even the analysts, economists and executives I have been speaking to, all with fancy U.S. degrees and flawless English, think highly of Erdoğan. They may start with disclaimers such as, “I don’t know your political inclinations, but…” showing that they are well aware of the controversies surrounding him and his policies. Still they praise his zeal to make Turkey a regional leader by increasing its political and economic power in the Middle East.

That economic power is apparent in the statistics: According to the Central Bank of Jordan’s Monthly Statistical Bulletin, Jordan’s imports from Turkey increased from around $450 million in 2009 to $600 million last year. The 28 percent yearly increase puts Turkey at the number six spot, but the countries whose exports to Jordan have increased more than Turkey’s all have much smaller absolute figures. In fact, Turkey is now the seventh-largest exporter to Jordan, and I am not sure the mosalsas are in these official statistics.

But even casual observation reveals a strong Turkish business presence: For one thing, hearing Turkish regularly at my hotel speaks volumes. Many Jordanian ready-wear apparel companies have clothing manufactured in Turkey, to which they affix their own labels. Sarar’s suits are highly regarded by professionals, although the $200-$300 price tag is deemed a bit expensive. Supermarkets are full of Turkish products, mainly by the Ülker group. There are also several construction companies in Jordan.

As for Jordan’s economy, that’s for next week.

* Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at

Another update in process

As I mentioned before in the column, I am in Jordan, in the middle of a consulting gig for the Jordanian economy, banking sector and capital markets.

My hotel does have super-fast internet, a nice work table with audio/video, S and HDMI cables on the wall and even free coffee and tea to help me with the long blogging sessions, but time is the binding constraint: As a result, I have neglected my blog a bit. 

I will not be able to blog much until I am back to Turkey on Monday, but I will at least put my Hurriyet / Roubini columns in so that my readers who follow me from the blog can have a look at them.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Roubini Post: Turkey: Financial Center Dreaming - II

I just noticed I forgot to put this Roubini column, which was published exactly two weeks ago, to the blog. Uppsss.... But I will still post it, as it is not time-sensitive at all. I am using the date it was published, just for archiving purposes...
Anyway, it already appeared in Hurriyet Daily News; Roubini Global Economics Emerging Markets EconoMonitor is just republishing it, but I just wanted to cross-link for the readers who might have missed it the first time around...

And please note that the column is numbered "II" because I had written on the subject before.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weekly Hurriyet Column: Financial Center Dreaming - II

Below is my Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review column for this week (it is actually last, as I am posting this exactly a week late, but I am sticking to its original date for archiving purposes), which you can also read at the Daily News website.  As for the title, yet another cheesy one, or at least one mildly so: I was loosely referring to the Kusturica movie.

As for the addendum, I have ten pages of notes from the meetings, some of which are quite interesting, but have no time to add them. The good thing is that they are not time-sensitive at all, so it will be OK even if I add those in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, on to the column:

The government has been dreaming about carving a financial center out of Istanbul ever since economy czar Ali Babacan first disclosed the Istanbul Finance Center, or IFC, strategy and action plan, or SAP, to great fanfare on the eve of the IMF-World Bank meetings in Istanbul.

That press conference was marked by a lack of foreign journalists, hinting that they had taken the idea with a grain of salt. The foreign economists I talked to during the meetings humorously (and politely) mentioned the traffic as the biggest obstacle, and I and Kaan Sarıaydın shared that skepticism in a column at the time.

One and a half years later, I had an opportunity to learn how much ground has been covered with that SAP in the Istanbul Finance Center: Perspectives and Creating Stimuli conference organized by the Foreign Economic Relations Board, or DEİK.

In the keynote address, Babacan noted that they have covered 9 of the 71 action plans in the SAP and are working on 13 others. In the second session of the conference, representatives of the different state agencies involved in the project summarized their work. But the show-stealers were the morning and afternoon panels, which brought together a very impressive list of professionals sharing their views on the IFC.

I am happy to take Babacan’s word on the progress of the SAP so far and that it would be completed in the next five years. However, I do have serious reservations about such a laundry list approach that not only does not prioritize among the action plans, but also fails to take IFC’s objectives and its competition into consideration.

For one thing, one of the highlights of the conference for your friendly neighborhood economist was to learn that Jeju is not a Jedi knight. It is a special autonomous province in South Korea that would like to become a financial center. In fact, the panelists noted that many other countries, all the way from Russia to Colombia and Peru, have financial center aspirations.

According to them, the largest financial centers have lost some of their share to smaller ones as a result of over-regulation and a loss of confidence in developed economies after the crisis. In addition, several panelists highlighted that capital will no longer be as bountiful and cheap as in the past, which should strengthen this trend.

Therefore, as Domenico Siniscalco of Morgan Stanley noted, becoming a financial center is not an exercise in creation, but one in competition. And in that regard, Istanbul does not fare well: It is ranked 71st in the Global Financial Centers index prepared by the Z/Yen Group for the City of London, up one place from its latest ranking before the SAP was enacted.

If the government enacted the SAP and leapfrogged in these rankings, Istanbul would certainly attract more capital, but it would need more than that to become a financial center. As the panelists argued, Istanbul, and other contenders for that matter, needs to find its niche. Those specialties could be geographic or product-based: Commodities, derivatives, exchange-traded funds and Islamic finance were some of the recommendations.

It is at least positive that the government is willing to engage the private sector in the process. In fact, Laura Cox of PricewaterhouseCoopers noted that she was impressed by the level of consultation. I have learned that Babacan met the panelists in private the previous night, and State Planning Organization Undersecretary Kemal Madenoğlu confided in his closing remarks that the conference has shown him the need to hold discussions with domestic stakeholders right away.

Let’s hope that all this advice is made well use of before IFC turns into yet another one of the government’s “crazyprojects.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at